Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Black Hills communities, Flagstaff, Helena at risk to weaponized wildfire

Yep, pure heptane.

Turpentine distilled from the California pines such as Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Gray Pine (Pinus sabiniana) yield a form of turpentine that is almost pure heptane. When producing chemical wood pulp from pines or other coniferous trees with the Kraft process, turpentine is collected as a byproduct. Often it is burned at the mill for energy production. The average yield of crude turpentine is 5–10 kg/t pulp. In 1946, Soichiro Honda used turpentine as a fuel for the first Honda motorcycles as gasoline was almost totally unavailable following World War II.
The spontaneous ignition of the beetle-killed ponderosa pine in a hundred-yard radius would be measured in megatons. Now consider that there are 70 million acres of collapsed pine forest in the United States.

So, here's the part that nobody wants to talk about publicly:

For parts of the West this is as much a reduction in the threat of weaponized wildfire than an economic development opportunity. Harvesting timber is diesel fuel intensive. Just paying for pine removal after the collapse of the housing market has exacerbated the potential for catastrophic conflagrations.

Keystone, Hot Springs, Custer, Pringle, Hill City, Rochford, Nemo, Silver City, Deadwood, Lead, Newcastle, even Rapid City, Piedmont, Sturgis and Spearfish are at extreme risk from the tactical use of wildfire.

Just six strategically-placed improvised fuel air explosives (FAEs) deployed during red-flag conditions have the potential to create a firestorm that would be virtually unstoppable. Repeated discussions with the Forest Service, law enforcement, fire department officials, even the Rapid City Journal, elicit smirks and suspicion from their representatives.

Here is today's US burn index from NOAA at risk to a Republican government shutdown.

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